Many children in, or at risk of entering, our juvenile justice system end up there because of unmet mental health needs. HLA’s Mental Health Advocacy Program for Kids (MHAP for Kids) has a proven track record of significantly improving the lives of these children and their families while reducing unnecessary costs for the state.

MHAP for Kids embeds a specially-trained attorney/advocate in the Family Resource Centers (FRCs) in Lowell, Roslindale, and Lynn. The three attorneys/advocates assist up to 60 youths at a time. 

Boston University's Final Report here!

Who does MHAP for Kids serve?

The young people and parents MHAP for Kids serves have a “significantly elevated risk profile”. Of the children served:

  • 83% diagnosed with one or more mental illness (average of 3.5 mental health related conditions)
  • 89% experienced a barrier to mental health treatment
  • 63% accessed crisis or emergency mental health care services in the past year
  • 44% hospitalized for psychiatric care in the past year
  • 37% admitted to a residential mental health facility in the past year
  • 28% did not attend school at all or missed almost every day in the past three months
  • 61% missed school more than one day per week in the past three months

What services does MHAP for Kids provide?

Begin or improve special education services
Secure and/or coordinate community-based mental health services
Collaborate with Dept. of Children and Families, Dept. of Mental Health, and Dept. of Developmental Services
Advocate for general education accommodations
Assist with health insurance coverage


What is the impact of MHAP for Kids?

Improved school attendance (28% of children missing almost every day, reduced to 4%)
Decreased use of emergency mental health services by children (63% reduced to 23%)
Decreased inpatient hospitalizations of children (44% reduced to 13%)
Decreased children’s stays in residential facilities (37% reduced to 21%)
Decreased children’s stays in emergency shelters (8% reduced to 0%)
Significantly improved overall mental health of children
Significantly reduced parental rates of depression
Significantly decreased parental stress


How is MHAP for Kids cost-effective?

Average budget, including overhead, for a full-time MHAP for Kids staff attorney at an FRC=$90,000; each serves approximately 50 youth /year – $1,800/youth.

In contrast, the average yearly cost of psychiatric hospitalization for 1 youth is $30,422 of public monies.  

MHAP for Kids now serves children as an embedded service of Family Resource Centers in Boston, Lowell, and Lynn. HLA seeks to expand the reach of MHAP for Kids statewide. 

MHAP for Kids is generously supported by grants from The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation, The Theodor Edson Parker Foundation, the Cabot Family Charitable Trust, the Mabel Louise Riley Foundation, the Ludcke FoundationGardiner Howland Shaw Foundation, the John W. Alden Trust, the Fish Family Foundation, and the Bennett Family Foundation.

Funding for MHAP for Kids is also provided by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, and the Massachusetts Probation Service. Generous support for this work has also been provided by Boston Children’s Hospital and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and many more corporate and individual sponsors. 


Health Care Justice in the Juvenile Courts from Sugarhouse Media on Vimeo.